So I emailed Septimus at the Banner of Heaven with the idea of guest-posting at Banner of Heaven with the intent to prove them fake. He didn’t like that idea so much (to a real person it would be difficult to be told that you’re not real), but he reconsidered hoping to put all the speculation (of their fraud) to rest. Yes, that’s exactly my point! Well, apparently they feel it would be better for me to post it here rather than there because someone was crying… or something like that. I’d like their feedback but I’m not holding my breath considering not a single one of them have EVER left a comment here at Nine-Moons. If Septimus is willing to write a rebuttal I will post it here as a guest post. As always we are interested in Truth here at Nine-Moons, so his defense would be welcome.
First things first: I’d like to extend a thank you to Geoff Johnston for being the first person to consider the possibility of their fraud. I’m sure it would have come up soon thereafter but with his trendspotting abilities he was able to see through their web of deceit before anyone else.
Have you ever seen the movie The Burbs? If not, go rent it (even though I’m about to spoil the ending). A suburbanite and his two neighbors struggle to prove their paranoid theory that the new family in town is a front for a cannibalistic cult. In the climax of the movie we discover that said family is not cannibalistic but just really strange. Just before the credits roll and we’re ready to get up and leave we learn that it actually IS a family of cannibals after all!
I’m here to tell you that the Banner of Heaven is this family and that they are not only weird, but they are indeed cannibals… er, not who they say they are. I promise you that this blog-saga will end just like the movie. Probably not today, I’m sure they will still protest and beg you to believe that they’re real and some will continue to believe, but eventually the truth will be revealed. Now let’s open that trunk and see some skulls.
Before I start I must admit that I’m quite embarrassed that I believed for as long as I did. Sure I always had doubts, I always felt something was off, but up until this last week I never allowed myself to be fully convinced because if by some slim chance that they were real, a part of me didn’t want to dismiss their problems and struggles. That’s the part they took advantage of.
In this post we will do four things: 1) prove through examples of real and anecdotal evidence that each of the permabloggers is a character invented by someone else, 2) speculate as to who is writing each character, 3) speculate on the different conspiracy theories and 4) discuss the ethics of doing such an experiment.
(Disclaimer: This is written as if I were talking about real people (the permabloggers) for ease of understanding in this discussion, but I’m really talking about the person writing the character.)
Their very first post
I didn’t read this introduction until just recently. Too bad, I might have picked up on the fraud much earlier. A quick excerpt:
“[Bloggers] blog for various reasons, that among these are to sound smart, to argue with total strangers, and to advance and defend ideas that for the most part they came up with all by themselves—that to accomplish these purposes group blogs are instituted upon the ‘net.”
They’re not talking about other group blogs out there, they’re talking about themselves. Also, when you read it consider the tone. Which of the permabloggers could possibly have written it? Jenn? Miranda? Mari? Sorry, none of them have ever been so confident. Aaron? Yeah right, everything is spelled and punctuated correctly. The ONLY one capable of writing it is Septimus. However, look at comment #11, he thinks Miranda wrote it. And since then where’s the vitriol toward other blogs? There’s none.
The “God’s Army” fallacy
The movie God’s Army follows a missionary through some experiences in his first couple months on the mission. They included an apostate roommate, his companion dying, a miraculous healing, teaching prostitutes, gaining a testimony, meeting his future wife, and baptizing an eternal investigator (among other things). That’s fine and dandy because all those things have happened to missionaries before, but not all to one missionary in a matter of a couple months.
Banner of Heaven is full of this same type of heightened drama. Sure there’s drama elsewhere in the Bloggernacle (can anyone say SSM?) but it’s not all on the same blog to the same people within 6 months. This leads me to…
General lack of forthrightness
Calling yourself Ned Flanders or RoastedTomatoes and discussing your real life is one thing. Giving yourself a normal (but not yours) name, posting a normal (but not yours) picture and telling stories (but not real) is a completely different thing. They admitted to fake names only when pressed. Some have said “partial” fake names, others don’t even know if Septimus is a real or fake name. Then the pictures. Are we to believe there are that many good-looking people who blog, let alone in one place? Sure, Samuel Clemens had a pseudonym, but none of you are Mark Twain.
Supposedly the blog leader. Not very experienced at improv or just too many coincidences. Living in a place with nary a member, but we’re supposed to believe that the random social worker he gets sent to for his psychotic break incident just happens to be a member of his ward where he is posing as an investigator? When Ned Flanders made a joke about Dale and him dating the very next post was about Dale and him going out dancing. He’s been lying all along with the sister missionaries, why should we believe him?
I like the Miranda character. It’s been fun to read her posts and be appalled by all that she discloses about her relationship with her husband. It’s also been interesting to read NOT A SINGLE WORD about her children (except that her husband stole money from the children’s clothing fund to buy an xbox which she in turn sold on Craigslist and bought herself MAC make-up). I can’t think of a single other Mormon-mom-blogger who has kids that never mentions them. Also, I’m quite sure there is no Craigslist local to Lewiston Idaho, nor is there a MAC store or counter there either.
For the most part has been a fun character to follow. Lost jobs, bad callings, working for The Man, “shelving” and questionable proposals. The normal life of a married male Manhattan attorney… er… I seem to be getting ahead of myself. I mean it’s normal for a NYC single sister. “I’m so glad we found each other. I hope we can be like this forever.” “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN… does he want to get married?!?” I’m sorry, nobody living in New York City is this naive.
Read ANY SINGLE ONE of his posts. That’s enough of an explanation.
The package incident is odd, but not enough for a solid case.
A lapsed Quaker living among Mormons. Too convenient. Sorry man.
WHO IS WRITING EACH CHARACTER
I will allow the SnarkerNacle to speculate (with my own opinion in brackets):
Todd Peterson, Stephen Carter, or Christopher Bigelow, one of the former Sugar Beet people. Is it that much of a coincidence the Sugar Beet falls into obscurity when the Blather of Heathens is spawned? The rambling discourses are entertaining and fabulously vivid, so whoever is writing them must be an old hand at this sort of thing. [That's good enough for me. The timing is uncanny.]
Steve Evans, Blather of Heathens got put onto the BCC blogroll rapidamente when so many others are ignored, he must be involved. She also posted to BCC, which Steve is the admin of, so he wouldn’t be exposing the tell-tale IP address leading back to him to some other blog admin. We have also always suspected him of being a closet cross-dresser anyway. [Not so sure. My guess is Sumer Evans. She still gets to do the feminist thing but with a twist.]
Lisa Bushman, Lisa adopts the character of a hopeless, hapless victim of circumstances, the antithesis of her own person. [Again, I disagree. I think it's Steve Evans. He's in New York and the only one who's "met" any of the characters (Jenn), but the details of the account are fuzzy and inconsistent. Also, she can go to Steve's Thanksgiving party on Thanksgiving but not the day after (knowing full well that I can go the day after but not Thanksgiving).]
Nate Oman, normally the most pretentious of the ethereally erudite T&S permabores, he takes on a persona almost completely the opposite: dim-witted, ignorant, and obtuse. But, the irritating arrogance persists, as does the terrible spelling. Hey, there is only so much you can cover up, or perhaps Nate is lampooning his own atrocious spelling in a self-depricating way. [Perhaps this is so. I just don't see Nate O. putting that much time into something so capritious. My guess is Ronan. It seems like the perfect project for him, something he'd love to write. DMI Dave Underhill is suspect as well.]
Aaron Brown, practically a non-member anyway, gets to act like he really is one. [A low blow by the SnarkerNacle. My take is that it's Jonathan Stapley. Maybe Bob or Logan.]
Rosalynde Welch, fun and clever, she adopts a completely drab persona who posts about the utterly bland. [Nah. I think it's FMHLisa. Opposites.]
THEORIES OF ORIGIN/PURPOSE
General Bloggernacle Theory
It’s simply an amusing farce. Nothing more.
Rusty’s BoH Theory
It’s a writing experiment. Some bloggernaclers were bored and wanted to mix things up a bit so they took on characters and created this blog as a parody. Through nepotistic promotion (via BCC) combined with their high drama they became instant best-sellers. Like the movie Network they are predicting the future of the Bloggernacle and this is their version of that future.
The “Septimus” Theory
Septimus’ relationship/saga with the sister missionaries is a metaphor for the blog’s relationship with the rest its readers (continued lying about identity to be able to drag them/us along, ironically getting offended when others call his bluff, etc.). This is a brilliant idea.
The “Aaron Cox” Theory
Aaron Cox is a thought experiment. The writer was curious as to how Mormons would react to a modern day version of Joseph Smith. His lack of education, his physical strength, his bravado, his outrageous ideas on doctrine, his twisting of scripture to fit his interpretation, his claims of how to know if something is real. Again, another brilliant idea.
John Mansfield’s BoH Theory
“Some, such as myself, think it is all the work of one person practicing his writing skills, particularly the work of creating distinct characters and voices… Inviting experts on folklore to participate would, if this site is a hoax, be a sly joke on the part of its creator(s)… It often seems to be taunting its readers as to why they give credence to anything they read.”
Geoff Johnston’s BoH Theory
“In addition to the actual permanent bloggers here, these intrepid marketers have created a fictional ‘blogger’ here at BoH as well. Somebody got a picture of a younger brother or nephew and then y’all came up with a fake bio and voila! – “Aaron B. Cox” was created. Then they wrote a couple blatantly offensive posts in this new pen name in order to get lots of people coming back to see the squabbles that inevitably arose. (This proves that every group blog ought to have a villain.) Bravo to the BoH marketing wizards for this ingenious marketing stunt!
THE ETHICS OF SUCH AN EXPERIMENT
We can react to all this information in basically two ways: 1) we can be offended and/or hurt or 2) we can laugh about it.
The easiest reason to get offended is that they have been lying to us for six months. Not just one big lie in the name of an experiment, but countless smaller lies in comments, emails and personal exchanges.
It’s easy to feel like the gullible kid who believes anything he’s told. How can you not feel stupid if you know that those in on the joke are getting a big round of laughs every time you give a serious response or show that you care (about a fake entity)? They take the trust we give them, kick it around, and then laugh at us over root beers.
Another reason we can be bothered is that it has made us question our blogger-friends. There isn’t a person here who I haven’t considered was a part of this (as I too have been accused). I’m not a big fan of questioning friends and them lying to me in response.
Laugh about it
Reason #1: it’s brilliant. How can you not love this blog? The drama, the outrageousness of the writing, all of the offense given and taken, the consistency of content, all of it! Regardless of how it all plays out we should give them props for doing such a fantastic job entertaining us for the past six months.
Thanks Banner of Heaven, it’s been a real trip!
(I want to thank A Random John, Kurt, Steve Evans and Ned Flanders for their direct help and Geoff Johnston and John Mansfield for their indirect help. A large portion of the ideas contained herein are those of these contributors. They’ve done much of the research and speculation and have been a big part of this project.)